A Heart on a Chain

A Heart on a Chain

Any ordinary girl would have been asleep when the stars were waking. Their eyes had been opened with the moonrise. The giant clock in the sky ticked along to the beat as it always has. Tick tock, every day at the same time the sun went to bed, calling out the stars to take his place. Tick tock. The stars took their time waking up, as is their way. And when they got tired, they would return to their sleep. For now, all of the flickering stars in the sky were awake. They were happy, dancing for joy. Glad to be alive. Happy to spread light far into the dark sadness of sky that blackened the space between them.

Mallory was in bed, but not asleep. She looked out her window at the candlelight stars. “Hello.” She spoke softly, as if afraid they would hide. They always seemed so timid. She shivered and drew her blankets around her shoulders. It used to be cozy, in her room. But ever since the hospital, nothing felt as warm.

Mallory wore her favorite pajamas. They were ones with hundreds of shiny red rocket ships flying into space. They had long since lost their fuzzy feeling, but they were just as comfortable as always.

And of course, she held a doll in her arms. She had been named for the way her hair spun around her head in all kinds of curls and waves. Frizzle.

There were no toys in a mess across the floor of her room, but instead, there were books. Dozens and dozens of books. They were not strewn about the room as if she had thrown, or carelessly dropped them. Rather, they were placed. The open-faced books almost completely covered the carpeted floor.

A knock on the door.

A man entered. A bearded man. It was not the short kind, like her father had. Rather, it was the kind of beard that spun around in every direction, like the hair of her doll.

“Mallory, Mallory,” the man said, “I have missed… what's this?!?” He glanced around the book covered floor.

“Well, Frizzle was reading with me, and every time we reached her favorite page, she made me stop. And after a while we got through all of the books.”

“Well, now. That means your floor is covered with your favorite things!” Said the man. Then smiling, he added, “You’ve created quite the encumbrance.”

Mallory let out a laugh, “That’s a funny word. What does it mean?”

“Hmm, I suppose it means to get in the way, or to make something more difficult. In this instance, it means that in order to grant her majesty-” he made a bow in her direction “-the gift that I have sworn to deliver, I must first traverse this dangerous landscape.”

This sent Mallory into a fit of giggles. “Why are you talking funny?”

“Because, why not??!” said the man, hopping between the sparse patches of carpet. “As I was saying, my task is complicated by the fact that they are all your favorites. You see, if I were to harm that which Her Majesty loves, I could never speak to her again!”

“Don’t be silly, I would forgive you. Eventually.”

The man reached the bed, and bowed a proper bow. “Her Majesty is too kind to her humble subjects.” He gave her a wink as he held out a small box with a red bow.

“Well, finally! I thought you wouldn't keep your promise.”

“I always do.” said the man.

Mallory pulled the bow, and let it fall to the floor. Lifting the lid, she raised an eyebrow. The man reached into the box, and removed a small heart-shaped necklace. “What kind of present is this?” she demanded.

“What's wrong with it?”

“It’s… weird.”

“Well, unlike other girls, it actually means something to you.” He clasped the chain around her neck, and looked into her eyes. Mallory looked away, and almost immediately became aware that she was shivering.

“Are you alright?” The man asked, in a way that made it seem that he already knew the answer. She made no response as she drew the covers in closer, and rubbed her shoulders to regain her warmth. She took a deep breath, and still made no response.

“Okay,” The man turned to face the room. “Tell me about the books.”

“They are all turned to me and Frizzle’s favorite pages.”

“Frizzle and I.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

He picked up the nearest book. “Roland and Reggie? I’ve read this book before.”

The book was open to chapter 6: The duel. “This is my favorite part, as well. What do you like about it?”

Mallory wrinkled her face, and hummed. “It’s the most fun.”

“Hmm. That’s as good a reason as any, I suppose.” He scratched his fuzzy beard. “Here’s what I see in it; Prince Roland is about to engage in the fight of his life. He has been trained for it, and knows what he needs to do in order to win. But it will still be the most difficult challenge he has faced so far.” He paused, as if to dislodge the words from his brain. “In some ways, this is the moment he leaves his childhood behind, and moves forward. He becomes a man. It’s not going to be easy, but Roland will lose everything if he doesn’t fight the Duke. It’s his only option, yes, but it’s also a gamble.”

“What do you mean?” Mallory tipped her head sideways.

“To gamble is to take a risk that has no definite reward.”

Mallory sighed. “I know that. What do you mean?”

He placed his hand on Mallory’s head, and looked her in the eyes. “Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it’s bad. If it were easy, it probably wouldn’t mean very much.” He lifted his hand from her head, and placed a finger on the heart-shaped pendant around her neck. She could feel the pendant press against the line in her chest. “You have put up the fight of your life, but you have run out of choices.”
The girl in the rocket-ship pajamas was silent for a moment, then began to cry. This wasn’t the cry of a child who had lost their ice cream, it had much more weight. Her chest heaved out deep breaths of air.

“Mallory, don’t be afraid.” He lifted her chin, and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “I’ll be right there with you.”

The man stood, and extended his hand to her. “All you’ve got to do is take my hand.”

She looked at his hand, and she looked to the door. “And if I do, what will happen next?”

The man smiled a broad, full smile. There was a twinkle in his eyes. “Look out your window.”

She did, and saw that the sky had taken on a strange tone. It was bright, as when the sun begins to rise. The stars were not so timid anymore. They smiled at her, and danced.

“They want to meet you.”

“And if I take your hand, I can see them? They won’t hide?”

“Would you hide from them?”

Mallory turned back to the man. Tears were running down her cheeks again. But this time, she wore a smile on her face. She took the hand that the man gave her, and as they left the room together, she whispered, almost to herself, “I’ve always wanted to meet them.”

The eternal clock moved along much the same as it had before. As the stars slipped over the horizon, they called the sun to take their place. The giant clock in the sky ticked along to the beat that it always has. The sun was happy, dancing for joy. Glad to be alive. Happy to spread light far into every corner of the world.

With the rise of sun came time for waking. But not everyone wakes in their time.

Jordan Hawes

Jordan Hawes

Spokane, WA